As the public transport sector in Kigali increasingly goes cashless, passengers are complaining of being made to pay extra for their luggage.
This is against the Rwanda Utility Regulations Authority rules which allow passengers using public buses around the city to carry luggage weighing not more that 15 kilogrammes free of charge.
But a spot check by Rwanda Today at the Nyabugongo -Nyanza Bus terminus where most traders heading to local markets board their vehicles from, revealed that they are forced to pay for luggage in cash even when it falls within the agreed limits, which raises the cost of transport. The bus fare is fixed and is paid by tapping a card.
Some passengers said that drivers refuse to carry them if they do not pay for the luggage.
Agnes Irabizi, a mother of four who sells fruits at the Gikondo market said the high transport charges have forced traders to seek alternative means of transport.
“Bus owners think that they are punishing us, but they are also losing out. The majority of women traders who operate from the Gikondo market have opted to take motorcycles instead of boarding buses in order to save on costs,” said Ms Irabizi. "My working capital is small.
I buy fruits worth Rwf10,000 from Nyabugogo which return a profit of about Rwf3,000; if we pay transport of between Rwf1,000 and Rwf1,500 and other requirements like taxes and rent, we remain with nothing."
The traders now want Rura to either force bus owners to stop charging extra for luggage or provide separate buses.
Nilla Muneza, the director-general of Royal Express bus company said they are addressing cases of overcharging luggage and harassment of customers by drivers.
“Passengers loss is our loss because when they don’t travel with us we don’t make profits; we are working tirelessly to identify and deal with unethical bus drivers,” said Mr Muneza. The director-general of transport at Rura Tony Kulamba, said that part of the problem is ignorance by passengers over the size of luggage permitted on commuter buses.
“It is the reason town service buses can only spend five minutes at bus terminus. We cannot have an efficient transport system if we have to load luggage on the same buses,” he said. “If drivers are charging even for small luggage, they are making a mistake and we assure the public that we are going to intervene and find a solution.”